Ten things to do in . . . September

Get out and about this month with our guide to the very best historical attractions


1. Be amazed by aerial magic


The annual air show at Imperial War Museum Duxford is a thrilling day out for all the family. See a range of modern and historic planes, including a Spitfire and a Hurricane, soaring overhead and taking part in aerial displays.

Event: The Duxford Air Show

Imperial War Museum Duxford, Cambridgeshire

5–6 September

01223 499353


2. Discover Goya’s dark side

Spanish painter Francisco de Goya (1746–1828) was a troubled individual whose private etchings depicted fantastical and horrible scenes. Several prints of these are now on show at Manchester Art Gallery. They reflect on topical concerns such as Spanish society, the church and warfare.

Exhibition: Fantasies, Follies and Disasters

Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester

Until February 2010

0161 235 8888 



3. Enjoy a wealth of heritage for free

England’s annual Heritage Open Days (HOD) was thrown into jeopardy this year with the collapse of the Civic Trust, which organised the event. Happily English Heritage has stepped in to take over the running of HOD, meaning that as usual thousands of historic properties are opening their doors to the public free of charge. Plus many will stage special activities.

Also this month Scotland runs its own Doors Open Days (www.doorsopendays.org.uk) while Wales hosts Open Doors (www.civictrustwales.org/ehd). In London there is an Open House weekend on 19–20 September (www.londonopenhouse.org).

Event: Heritage Open Days England

10–13 September (Free entry)


4. Meet a tragic Aztec king

Unfortunately for Aztec emperor Moctezuma II, his reign (1502–1520) coincided with the arrival of Spanish colonists. Unable to match the invaders’ technological and military might, Moctezuma was compelled to cede control of his empire. His story is told in a major British Museum exhibition, which features some stunning Aztec artefacts as well as European portraits of Moctezuma.

Exhibition: Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler 

British Museum, London

24 September–24 January 2010

020 7323 8181



5. Dig deep north of the border

Get to grips with Scotland’s rich archaeological heritage at the country’s annual archaeology month this September. There are a whole host of events taking place across the country, with a special schools programme as well. Find out about excavations and discover the history of the peoples who lived in Scotland through the ages.

Event: Scottish Archaeology Month Scotland


0845 872 3333  


6. See Victorian wars through the lens

The conflicts of the mid-19th century are revealed in photographic details at the National Army Museum’s new First Shots exhibition. It contains some of the earliest ever war photographs, recalling battles in India, Burma and the Crimea. Among the pictures are portraits of military leaders from the era as well as scenes of wartime devastation.

Exhibition First Shots: Early War Photography 1848–60

National Army Museum, London

2 September–10 January 2009 (Free entry)

020 7730 0717



7. Stroll through London’s past for a worthy cause

Children’s hospice CHASE is holding a charity walk this month that begins at the Tower of London and ends with a street party at the Imperial War Museum. Along the way you’ll cross nine of the capital’s bridges and get the opportunity to pop along to HMS Belfast and check out the exhibition Life Below Decks. The Imperial War Museum’s Terrible Trenches exhibition is also part of the programme.

Event: Charity London Bridges Walk

Tower of London, London

27 September

01483 454213  


8. Admire Turner’s sublime imitations

JMW Turner (1775–1851) liked to test his abilities against the greatest painters in history. He did this by producing works that were influenced by the likes of Rembrandt and Canaletto but which he also hoped would outshine the original efforts. In a new exhibition the Tate will be displaying a range of Turner paintings paired with those of the artists who inspired them.

Exhibition: Turner and the Masters 

Tate Britain, London

23 September–31 January 2010

020 7887 8888


9. Remember General Wolfe

On the 250th anniversary of his death at the battle of Quebec, General James Wolfe’s hometown of Westerham will be recalling his life with a range of events. Many activities will take place at his childhood home, Quebec House, including re-enactments and a special exhibition. There will also be a memorial service on 13 September at St Mary’s Church.  

Event: Westerham Wolfe Weekend Quebec House, Kent

12–13 September 

01732 866368   


10. Hear how Henry dressed to kill

As part of the ongoing events to mark 500 years since the start of Henry VIII’s reign, the Royal Armouries have organised a one-day conference at the Tower of London. Five leading historians will discuss various aspects of the Tudor monarch’s reign, with a particular focus on his armour and weaponry.

Conference: Henry VIII: Arms and the Man

Tower of London, London

5 September

0113 220 1985